Interactive Activities When Teaching Compound Words

By Krima Olive Molina

Make your students' learning of compound words less monotonous (think written drills and exercises) and more interactive by trying out these fun compound words games and activities in your classroom.

What Are Compound Words?

Two separate words that join together and form a new word with a new meaning defines a compound word. Compound words can either be (1) a combination of two related words that form a new word with a related meaning (sun + shine = sunshine) or (2) a combination of two unrelated words that form a new word with a completely different meaning (lap + top = laptop). Compound words are everywhere. Therefore, it is important for teachers to introduce to their students early on what these words are and how they combine to form words with various, new definitions. The following compound word interactive activities will help you do so.

My Long-lost Pair

One of the compound words interactive activities that you can do in the classroom is "My Long-lost Pair." Gauge how well your students use visual clues and measure their previous knowledge on what compound words they already know by doing this activity. Here are the guidelines or directions:

1. Prepare flash cards, the number of which should match the number of students you have in your room. Written on each flashcard is a half of a compound word. For instance, bookworm would be split into two cards--book and worm. Depending on the grade level you are handling, choose compound words appropriate to the vocabulary proficiency your class profile dictates.

2. Have your students pick out a card from the set that you made. Then, tell them not to show their cards to anyone yet. The teacher then proceeds to tape a card on each student's back. After a student is done having his/her card taped onto his/her back, s/he is to go to any area with his/her back to the wall. The procedure is the same for everybody else, until all the students have their backs to the wall.

3. At the teacher's signal, everyone pries away from the wall and mingle with the rest of the class. Their task (to be accomplished in three to five minutes, depending on the grade level) is to search for their missing other half. The challenge here is to have someone else read their words for them since they are unable to see what half is assigned to them and what other half they should be looking for. For early grades, this is an effective way to practice both reading skills and life skills as the task will require that they read words aloud and they work cooperatively with each other.

4. Once a pair finds each other, they are to shout, "We found our long-lost pair!" and run to the teacher. The teacher then checks the compound word formed, then instructs the pair to get each other's cards and tape them on the board in the correct order.

5. Everyone else is to go on finding their pairs and taping their compound words on the board.

After the game has been concluded, the teacher then proceeds by discussing each compound word and how they knew about the existence of those words. Examine if (1) the compound word is composed of two words that form a meaning related to the individual words, as in book + case = bookcase (a case for books) or (2) the compound word is composed of two words that form a completely different meaning unrelated to its two halves as in dead + line = deadline. For a list of compound words, visit this link.

Word in a Picture

For this activity, the teacher is to prepare various images that represent compound words. For instance, the compound word deadline may be represented by a picture of a line in a coffin, or a line with RIP, whatever suits the class profile better. This game, therefore, involves those compound words whose individual components are completely unrelated to the collective meaning. Other images may be a bar of butter and a fly for butterfly, a ball and a room for ballroom, etc. Make sure to select images according to the level of word and image comprehension under which your students fall.


1. The teacher is to flash an image or a set of images on the smartboard.

2. The goal of each student is to guess the compound word being represented by the images. If a student knows the answer to an item, s/he is to raise his/her hand as fast as possible.

3. To help students guess the correct word, the teacher makes various books and reading materials available for the students' perusal minutes before the start of the game. These reading materials may range from storybooks to newspaper clippings that contain the compound words to be hot-seated in the game.

4. The teacher then awards a point for every correct answer. The student with the most number of points wins the game.

The key to designing fun compound words interactive activities is to bear in mind one goal; to get the students to love words and reading. Once this love is established, teaching vocabulary and reading skills would just be a breeze for you, the reading teacher, for there is now minimal need to motivate an already motivated reader to dive deeper and deeper into reading to learn new words.

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